These thoughts have been suggested by the work before us, which, though evidently a hasty and imperfect sketch, has truth and life in it, which gave us the thrill, and laid hold of us with the power, the sensation of which has never yet failed us as a test of genius. Whoever the anonymous author may be, he is a poet. A pretender to science cannot always be safely judged of by a brief publication, for the knowledge of some facts does not imply the knowledge of other facts; but the claimant of poetic honours may generally be appreciated by a few pages, often by a few lines, for if they be poetry, he is a poet. We cannot judge of the house by the brick, but we can judge of the statue of Hercules by its foot. We felt certain of Tennyson, before we saw the book, by a few verses which had straggled into a newspaper; we are not less certain of the author of Pauline.
Pauline is the recipient of the confessions: the hero is as anonymous as the author, and this is no matter, for poet is the title both of the one and the other. The confessions have nothing in them which needs names: the external world is only reflected in them in its faintest shades; its influences are only described after they have penetrated into the intellect. We have never read anything more purely confessional. The whole composition is of the spirit, spiritual. The scenery is in the chambers of thought: the agencies are powers and passions; the events are transitions from one state of spiritual existence to another. And yet the composition is not dreamy; there is on it a deep stamp of reality. Still less is it characterised by coldness. It has visions that we love to look upon, and tones that touch the inmost heart till it responds.
The poet’s confessions are introduced with an analysis of his spiritual constitution, in which he is described as having an intense consciousness of individuality, combined with a sense of power, a self-supremacy, and a “principle of restlessness which would be all, have, see, know, taste, feel all”; of this essential self, imagination is described as the characteristic quality; an imagination, steady and unfailing in its power. A “yearning after God,” or supreme and universal good, unconsciously cherished through the earlier stages of the history, keeps this mind from utterly dissipating itself; and, which seems to us the only point in which the coherence fails, there is added an unaptness for love, a mere perception of the beautiful, the perception being felt more precious than its object....
And now when he has run the whole toilsome yet giddy round and arrived at the goal, there arises, even though that goal be religion, or because it is religion, a yearning after human sympathies and affections, which would not have assorted with any state or moment of the previous experience; he could not have loved before; at one time it would have been only a fancy, a cold, and yet perhaps extravagant imagining; at another,